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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

In Emily Dickinsonís Own Hand

By March 13, 2014

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Only a very few of Emily Dickinson’s poems were published during her lifetime—without her permission and without her name. When she died, she left thousands of short lyric poems in manuscript form, many of them recopied into string-bound booklets she called “fascicles,” and hundreds of fragments scribbled on torn-open envelopes and other scraps of paper. But the collections published after her death were heavily edited, their punctuation “regularized” by editors Mabel Loomis Todd and T.R. Higginson, taking the reader to some distant remove away from the original poems. It was a gift to the world when her poems were published in an edition based on her manuscripts, with all their dashes and quirky spellings intact, in the mid-20th century. Now, in the 21st century, Emily Dickinson readers have received the greater gift of direct access to her poems in their original manuscript form, hand written by the poet herself and preserved in digital images on the Internet:

  • Amherst College has digitized its entire collection of Emily’s manuscript poems and made it all available for free online viewing (just log in as a guest). What a treasure!

  • The Emily Dickinson Archive is gathering digital images of Dickinson’s manuscripts from all the various library collections that have the paper in their collections, beginning with all the poems included in The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Variorum Edition, edited by R.W. Franklin and published by the Belknap Press at Harvard University in 1998.

  • Emily’s late poems and fragments, scribbled on envelopes, have been assembled in a beautiful facsimile edition published in October 2013, The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems, edited by artist Jen Bervin and Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner (New Directions/Christine Burgin).

More on Emily Dickinson:
Brief biographical profile of Emily Dickinson
Library: Poems by Dickinson
Circling Back to Emily Dickinson” (July 2013)
Emily Dickinson in Middle Age” (August 2012)
Wearing Emily Dickinson, Wearing Her Words” (August 2011)
The Scientist in Emily Dickinson” (September 2010)
Emily Dickinson: Her Rhymes, Her Dashes, Her Flowers, Her Fits?” (July 2010)
Emily’s Pearls Still Shine in the 21st Century” (June 2008)
Poets Are Still Musing on Pictures of Miss Emily” (July 2005)
What Would Emily Say? An Indeath Interview,” by Robyn Sue Millerz (February 2003)
Emily Dickinson: Continuing Enigma,” by Jone Johnson Lewis


March 7, 2013 at 10:38 am
(1) david eberhardt says:

Original Message ——–
Subject: re Armantrout
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 2013 08:01:23 -0500
From: mozela9@comcast.net

To: editor@poets and writers magazine.org
I, being very opinionated and egotistic, love the fact that Emily did not publish- since I see so many publishing who add nothing.

I wrote the foll,owing letter re language poets: fy i- and you probably aren’t! (lol)

As a a lover of juicy words- Dickinson, Crane (Hart), Thomas, Stevens and meaning as in Dickinson or Eliot- I find Ms. Armantrout (your cover story of March/April) and the language poets off putting. Maybe they are rebelling against my preferred manner of poetry…. and I can see trying something new.

I hoped Alan Ginsberg freed us a bit from such rigid scholasticism. I wish he had.

I find her poetry to be precious, puritanical and rigid, although, as with all poets, I know I would like her as a person. Where is there any passion in this poetry?

That Ms Armantrout wins a big prize for this is, to me, a matter of some one seeing clothes on the emperor. I can imagine the ďcommon personísĒ reaction to such poetry. Whatever happened to Joyce Kilmer (“I believe that I will never see- a thing as lovely as a tree”). Will a service station on the N J Turnpike be named after Rae?

Her book from Weslyan (sp?): Just Sayin? How many are sold- whatís the money breakdown? Could you cover interesting stuff like that?

Ashberry is another language culprit!

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